Food Preparation

Photo by KFoodaddict

Here you are going to find the necessary tips to make your meal preparation run smoothly. Streamlining the process is the name of the game. Start by planning out meals that use similar ingredients to consolidate your shopping list and grocery bill.  Make enough food so that instead of using one recipe per meal, you can use the leftovers to reconstitute an entirely new meal.

 When making and storing salads, know that they can stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three to four days. Only add dressings when you are ready to eat to prevent the salad from getting soggy in the fridge.  Meats can last in the freezer as long as necessary. Take them out to thaw a few hours before you are ready to cook or two days before if you choose to thaw them in the fridge. Once cooked, you can store meats back in the fridge to last for up to a week or in the freezer for longer.  When marinating meats, leave them in the marinade for no more than three to four hours. Marinades not only season the meats, they break down the meat fibers to make them tenderer. If left in the marinade too long the meat will become tougher.  Fresh garlic cloves are an excellent addition to many different meals and you can gauge the amount you use so that the taste is not so strong while still taking advantage of its nutritional benefits. These include antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, high blood pressure and blood sugar reduction properties and more.

 To get the most out of these benefits you will want to crush the garlic, releasing a chemical called Allisin. In order to release it use the flat side of a knife (hold it against the unpeeled clove and strike the flat of the blade with the heel of your palm, being careful to keep it away from the edge of the knife). The sheath of the garlic comes off very easily this way once it is crushed.  After crushing the garlic allow it to sit for 20 minutes to release then mince the garlic afterward. A tip here for easy mincing is to slice thin strips of each crushed clove up to the tip without slicing through the entire clove, then cut width-wise for perfectly sized minced pieces.

 This process implies that during meal prep, crush your garlic first before prepping any other ingredient so that it is ready to use by the time you are finished chopping other vegetables or trimming meats.  Save the fat and extraneous meat trimmings to boil for a nutrient-dense stock base for soups, stews and other dishes.  An essential part of eating healthily is to get the most nutritional value out of the foods that you consume. Each way you choose to cook your food is going to deplete it of its nutrients a little differently than the next.  Eating raw fruits and vegetables is always going to provide your body with their full nutritional value, steaming vegetables is the next best way, followed by pan frying, microwaving, grilling and then baking, which tends to deplete them of their benefits the most. Also, the longer you cook food the more you burn up their nutrients. This is just something to keep in mind so that you can emphasize a variety in your cooking methods. By no means does it imply that you should eat everything raw or avoid using the oven or microwave! Perhaps you might like to explore your options outside of just using the microwave as an example, if that is the method you are most used to. Get out of your comfort zone and have fun experimenting!

 For vegetables like carrots, potatoes, beets, eggplant, cucumber, zucchini and squash, try cooking them with the skins on rather than peeling them. The skins are an excellent source of fiber and cutting out the peeling process will save you some time.  Always preheat your fry pan with a bit of oil in it before adding ingredients to speed up the cooking process.  Meat takes longer to cook than vegetables so start cooking the meat while you prepare your vegetables to save yourself time. Use this method once you are more comfortable with the cooking process so that you do not end up overcooking the meat.  This method will come in handy as you progress with your cooking techniques so that you can have multiple dishes cooking at once and save yourself time. You may have noticed from watching cooking shows that this is the common method chefs use to put out a whole meal together. The mastery comes in timing; in knowing how long each dish takes to cook, how much attention each needs while cooking and so on.  You can start one dish after another, monitor them appropriately while cooking, keep yourself busy with other preparations while dishes are doing their thing on the stove or in the oven, and finally have everything finish at relatively the same time so that if you are preparing the meal to eat immediately after, everything will remain nice and hot all at once.

 Here is a case-in-point example of what I do for breakfast: the foods I prepare are a 4 to 5 ounce salmon fillet, a quarter cup of dry quinoa, two over-easy eggs and half of an avocado. Sound good? You bet your taste buds it is! It has been my staple breakfast for the past three months since getting on the low carb diet and I have not tired of it yet, giving me ample time to get the preparation down pat.

 I know the salmon takes about 10 to 15 minutes to bake from being frozen, about seven to eight minutes if already thawed to room temperature. The oven needs time to preheat to 400˚, so I turn that on first. The quinoa will take the longest or just as long to cook (about 15 minutes) and it still stays hot in the pot even after it is done (if other foods need more time to cook), so I start boiling the water next. While the oven is preheating and the water is coming to a boil, I measure out the quinoa and season the salmon with oil and spices on a baking sheet. I will then throw the salmon in the oven and by this time the water has come to a boil so I throw the quinoa in. It does not need any more attention so I can set a timer and leave it to cook while halving, pitting and peeling the avocado and placing it on my breakfast plate.Now I put a pan on the oven with a little oil and turn the heat on medium low. I actually have time in between here to fill a glass of water, juice or tea to have with breakfast and check on the salmon. Once the pan is heated I have about seven minutes left for the quinoa and it takes about five minutes to cook the eggs, so I can crack them over the pan and cook and season them with the time left. Bing! Out comes the salmon and then quickly after come the eggs, then the quinoa – all successively on the plate that is already waiting with an avocado half and a fork to enjoy a nice hot breakfast. I even have a drink prepared to go with it.